You Reap What You Sow: an Analysis of Candide’s Garden
In Voltaire’s work Candide, he approaches the subjects of optimism and free will and looks at their influence on our life paths. Candide, the hero, doesn’t play the role of a real optimist, but rather an acceptor of condition. By the end of the story his character has become less naive, but the only insight he has gained is in his definition of what that condition is. His view of free will really remains unchanged because he always viewed it as a factor of condition.
Initially Candide correlated condition as being more or less linked to a fate and instead of really looking at the good he just accepted the outcome of situations as being ‘the nature of the beast’, so to speak. Optimism views the bright side of situations and the good that comes out of them. Though it appears at first glance that Candide is an optimist this is really a mistaken analysis.
Candide comes across in that way because he is one who follows through on hopes and lets them guide his life path. His entire journey is driven by his dream to be with Cunegonde; his desire to reunite with an ideal. However optimism isn’t what drives his desire to reunite with his love and it certainly isn’t how he views the atrocities that befall his colleagues and himself on his journey.
Candide is honest and is described a number of times as such and he views the world in a very matter of fact manner. In contrast, optimists are generally dishonest because they look at the world through rose colored glasses and where Candide may be inexperienced and naive of the world , his naivitae should not be mistaken for optimism. Candide is matter of fact and in situations where he is presented with a philosophical or even optimistic option he always chooses the route of practicality.
For example when Candide is befallen by some masonry during the earthquake, Pangloss begins a philosophical retort about the nature of Sulphur running underground to which Candide replies, “nothing is more likely, but for the love of God some oil and wine! ” (Ch 5). In another example, after Pangloss is hanged and Candide is flogged and old woman approaches and tells him to “take heart, my son, and follow me” (Ch 6). The next line of the text then reads, “Candide did not take heart, but he did follow the old woman into her hovel” (Ch 7).
If Candide were truly an optimist he would have headed her words and known he was in good hands and things would be better, but he didn’t. The same old woman in another instance said to Candide and Cunegonde, “you two do nothing but complain,” again not a characteristic displayed by an optimist. Candide does become more worldly by the end of the work, through experience and hardship, but does not really gain insight. He is still just accepting his situation as a matter of fact and dealing with it as he did throughout his journey.
This acceptance is seen when the author describes how, “at the bottom of his heart, Candide had no desire to marry Cunegonde, but the outrageous impertinence of the Baron determined him to go through with the ceremony” (Ch 30). In his final words this general acceptance is also seen when Pangloss is urging him to consider the chain of events and that in essence all things happened to lead them here, where ultimately he obtained his ‘desire’, to his argument Candide responds, “that is well said, but we must cultivate our garden” (Ch 30).
All along Candide understood free will in relationship to his life journey, but he didn’t associate it with his ‘condition’ until the end. He doesn’t really gain insight because he was following that philosophy of free will throughout the story; he just finally makes the connection between his choices and his situation. In the end he stays true to his character and accepts that which he created; all that which now represents his garden.
Voltaire. Candide. Trans. Adams, Robert. W. W. Norton, 1988.Sample Essay of Custom-Writing